The Arrest of Liliʻuokalani – Part 1

#96 in the Moʻolelo series

Many people believe that Liliʻuokalani’s arrest was related to and immediately followed the overthrow. But Liliʻu was arrested in1895, two years after the overthrow. Her arrest was related to the Kaua Kūloko, the 1895 “Civil War” or Wilcox rebellion. She was accused of allowing the rebels (see Keanu Sai on this point of whether or not this was a counter-rebellion) to hide their weapons in the yard of Washington Place.

Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox

Whether this was true or not is unknown, but it is very unlikely, though not impossible. First, Wilcox as leader of the Libreral Party, was Liliʻu’ s political opponent. The Liberal party, partly composed of Hawaiians who had lived abroad and adopted democratic ideals, actually wanted a Hawaiian Republic (a government with an elected leader), but not the Republic that we ended up getting!

This animosity, if there indeed was any, may have been put aside temporarily while the “rivals” focused on what was important: restoring native rule. But on the other hand, Liliʻu’s approach was always to govern in a way that was beyond reproach, that is, to make no legal mistakes and allow the law to take its course. The natural, expected result of this would have been her restoration (which in fact Cleveland negotiated and attempted to implement).

Bernice Pauahi Pakī and Lydia Liliʻu Kamakaʻeha

This event, Liliʻu’s arrest, was the quinessential case of adding insult to injury and has become an iconic, and egregious, memory for Hawaiians. So much so that the time between the overthrow and the arrest has, in the minds of many, been erased. So iconic is this case, that Kamana Beamer (yes, Iʻm reading his book now – I read the manuscript when it was a dissertation and am only getting around to the book now) begins his book with an account of the arrest:

In January of 1895, police officers accompanied by mercenaries of the Republic of Hawaiʻi seized Queen Liliʻuokalani at her home in Honolulu. The arrest of Liliʻuokalani was a political action, undertaken even though the president of the republic, Sanford Dole, had stated that there was ʻno legal evidence’ linking her to the Armed attempt to restore the constitutional monarchy … The queen would be brought before a military commission largely comprised of those who had conspired against her and the Hawaiian Kingdom only a few years prior … [She] later stated ʻThe object of it was evidently to humiliate me, to make me break down in the presence of the staring crowd. But in this they were disappointed’

Beamer, 2014, 1

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